eComics All-You-Can Eat Could Be A Bitter Pill

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage

Among many of the discussions I've had with fellow geeky pros, one intrigued me - the idea that streaming media works best when it's an "all you can eat" approach.  Like Netflix, you pay one fee and watch as much as you want with only some restrictions.

This approach to an online service is simple, effective, and has the advantage that it's predictable.  You know how much money is going in, how much is coming out, and to an extent what your expenses are.  It's a model that may not be high-risk/high-reward, but it's a lot easier to handle.

Now in an age of eComics, Jmanga and the like, I have to speculate - what would happen if eComics moved to an "all you can eat" model.

Yes, I know they called me mad, but I'll show those fools!  No, wait, that's my mad scientist rant.  Sorry.  Too much Girl Genius.

Anyway, so let me speculate what this could mean for us and the comics industry if eComics tried the buffet method.  If we're working with (or in) comics, this is something to watch.

A Long-Term Shift: The all-you-can-eat pricing approach would mean a long-term shift in strategy.  The goal would be addition of and retention of subscribers who paid regular fees.  It would be a less exciting, more business-like strategy.

That would also mean . . .

Lots Of Content: Look at how Netflix deluges you with content.  I love surfing Netflix just for things I never knew existed.  eComics would benefit from basically loading in everything bot the kitchen sink (unless they were Kitchen Sink comics).  The goal would be to attract and retain new readers by having everything under the sun.

Of course there's old content then there's new . . 

New Content Changes: You want to get in those new comics, but your all-you-can-eat model may limit your income.  That means going through all sorts of delicate rights negotiations and so forth with companies.

It could also mean new comics being produced in an even more businesslike model.  As you get nice, predictable income (via licensing fees) that come from predictable income from all-you-can-eat pricing, production would change. 

Frankly, I don't think it would encourage much innovation unless that sold really well.  It may also mean more regular profit with less chance of serious out-of-the-ballpark gains.

That means . . .

Other Monetization: I'd expect that once everyone licenses their backlog, and new comics are more regularly licensed at predictable fees, not everyone is going to be happy with the amount of money made.  So I expect there would be other efforts to monetize economics, such as:

  • Deals and tie-ins on various purchases and properties.
  • Subscription codes.
  • New subscriber codes.
  • Special features for those paying premium.

And so on.

There's only so far you can go with this, and that means . . .

Non-Comics Productions: Right now comics are being made into movies and television shows big time.  There's a lot of money in that because of lucrative tie-ins, licensing, merchandise, etc.

In an age of all-you-can-eat eComics that could become a dominant model.  The Big Chances are taken on non-comics/non-eComics properties.  The comics revenue stream becomes a more, regular, tie-in method of making money.  In fact the movies and other media would get subscribers to the all-you-can-eat services.

Oh, and if this becomes the model . . .

Comic Stores Are In Trouble: We know they are now, but an eComics all-you-can eat approach, where monetization of comics is a smaller, regular part of a large media strategy?  That could be bad for them as it removes a lot of revenue streams, and directs people to e-services.


Not exactly a hopeful future in my opinion.  Of course, what it means for those of us interested in comics careers, and can we make it better?  Well, that's for another time . . .

- Steven Savage

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